Subscribe today to receive our monthly Side Dish email directly in your inbox!
No benefit seen in sharp limits on salt in diet: While product developers continue to explore ways to reduce sodium, a new report commissioned by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and performed by a committee at the Institute of Medicine states there is no good health reason to limit sodium intake to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines. The recommended 1,500 milligrams per day was thought to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk due to blood pressure issues; the American Heart Association stands by that level for everyone. However, the committee examined new research and concluded looking at blood pressure is not accurate and a low sodium diet can actually be more harmful. ( New York Times, 5/15)
Cake It On: Japanese vegetable pancakes take over: The okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese savory pancake made from cabbage and vegetables then topped generously with sauces and different toppings. Several U.S. restaurants have added their own interpretations of the popular street food. Xiao Bao Biscuit in Charleston, N.C., specializes in Asian soul food and adds kale and “pork candy” to its okonomiyaki. The Pagoda Pizza food truck in Austin serves it with salty bacon and fried eggs. Chez Sardine in New York City offers a creative interpretation with octopus and kimchi. We expect to see more of these creative pancakes as the interest in Japanese cuisine grows. (Tasting Table National, 5/10)
Zelda Fitzgerald gets her own artisanal ice cream: One of our favorite artisan ice cream makers, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio, is celebrating the release of the newest film version of The Great Gatsby with The Zelda Collection, four flavors inspired by the celebrated author’s wife. The couple was notorious for their Jazz Age partying in the Roaring 20s, leading to ice cream flavors Cognac + Marmalade and Dark Chocolate Rye. Blackberries & Sweet Cream and Loveless Biscuits and Peach Jam (featuring biscuits from Nashville’s Loveless Café) tip their hats to Zelda’s Alabama childhood. (The Frisky, 5/8)
Exploratorium reinvents the museum café: Museums across the country are redesigning their menus to deliver food that is just as artistic, creative and innovative as the exhibits. Menus are now created to complement the museum experience without overshadowing it. Several in the San Francisco Bay Area are embracing this trend. The Exploratorium, an interactive science museum now on the city’s Embarcadero waterfront, offers adults an element of surprise with its Mystery Seawater cocktail made with local gin, plum wine and a splash of salt water from nearby Half Moon Bay. The café in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art serves cakes and pastries inspired by current exhibits and great artists, such as the signature Mondrian Cake. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a Sea-to-Table program at its new fine dining spot while the SF Jazz Center serves New Orleans Creole Cuisine. (San Jose Mercury News, 5/15)
Toronto’s Marshmallow Factory fights frozen yogurt with warm, fluffy treats: The Original Marshmallow Factory in Toronto is serving up customized marshmallow cream as if it were frozen yogurt. Having worked years to develop the right texture for the cream, owner Norman Shaffer tucks the flavored cream inside a shell, such as molded chocolate or pastries, then adds toppings. The whole can be served cold or warm and customers have many ways to customize, including picking one of 20 different marshmallow cream flavors. Will this unique treat catch on? We’ll stay tuned. (The Toronto Star, 5/23)
Birthday-cake flavored everything sells: Consumers incapable of waiting for their birthday to have their cake are driving the demand and success of birthday-cake flavored products. Over 17 birthday-cake flavored products have been introduced to the market over the last few years. From vodka to cookies to ice cream, the birthday-cake flavor appeals to the kid in consumers of all ages, especially Boomers who are feeling nostalgic about their childhood. Popular products include Pinnacle Vodka, Good Humor Bars, Peeps and a special 100th birthday flavor of Oreo Cookies. (USA Today, 5/16)
How Swedish Malort became Chicago’s mascot bitter drink: As Italian Fernet Branca is to San Francisco, Swedish Jeppson’s Malort is to Chicago. These ultra-bitter spirits have found a home with drinkers proud of being able to tolerate the nearly unpalatable taste. In Chicago, the Swedish spirit is a sort of tough mascot; in San Francisco, Fernet is a rite of passage for true cocktail imbibers. Malort is made from wormwood, common to absinthe. Those managing to swallow the stuff often take pictures of the resulting “Malort Face” and post them on Flickr. Bartenders at The Violet Hour have found a way to balance Malort with other ingredients in cocktails such as the World Shattered, which features lemon juice, honey syrup, raspberry and mint. (NPR The Salt Blog, 5/10)
Wrigley halts production of caffeine gum following FDA concern: The growing trend for caffeinated products has sparked concern for the FDA who is now investigating deeper into the effects of caffeine, especially in children and adolescents. Even though many producers of caffeinated products claim to target adults, there are currently no age restrictions to buy these products like there are for alcohol, tobacco and even some cough medicines. As a result of the ongoing investigation, Wrigley has halted production of its new Alert gum which can deliver the same amount of caffeine as half a cup of coffee (40 milligrams.) (Reuters, 5/8)
Beyond basic herbs: Home gardeners are joining fine dining chefs in celebrating more obscure herbs like lovage, which gives a strong celery flavor, and papalo, that tastes of cilantro. Chocolate mint, Thai basil and lemon balm are other flavorful plants. Beverages have been flaunting herbal flavors for several years already. Dry Sodas, Ayala’s Herbal Waters and now Numi Organic Teas all provide innovative herbal beverage experiences. Numi’s new line of “savory teas” features hot brews made from vegetable and herbs blends, such as Broccoli Cilantro and Carrot Curry. (Wall Street Journal, 4/30) Access via Google
Mile-High Pretzels are one twisted snack: Colorado is loving handmade pretzels these days, jumping on the bandwagon we have been monitoring since our New Old World Cuisine Culinary Trend Mapping Report several years ago. Old Major’s serves warm-from-the-oven knotted pretzel rolls with mustard butter while the Bohemian Biergarten, a new central-European beer hall in Boulder, gets its monster pretzels from a Culinary Institute of America grad who is making several sizes for gourmet stores and restaurants. Freshly made pretzels are turning up as late-night snacks at cocktail bars, accompanying craft beers at breweries and selling out at bakeries around Denver. (Denver Post, 4/24)
Bacon Dog among five new hot dogs from Kraft: As Kraft Food Group strives for reinvention now that the confection and snack part of the business has been spun off into Mondelez, it is reviving classic brands like Oscar Meyer with trend-influenced updates. The Bacon Dog is first up and already has consumers buzzing, and with good reason, we think, considering how mainstream the bacon trend has become. Other additions include a gluten-free chicken-breast hot dog, larger sized Smokies smoked sausages and new versions of existing hot dogs with higher nutritional values. (Chicago Tribune, 5/14)
Bacon goes everywhere: Oh Boy! Oberto is giving bacon lovers a new snack solution with All Natural Bacon Jerky. The new dried meat snack makes it easy to eat bacon anywhere at anytime and is another “why didn’t I think of that?” product. Oh Boy! Oberto bacon jerky is made from 100% real strips of bacon that are applewood smoked and have 20% less fat than regular bacon. Walgreen’s featured bacon jerky under its Nice! label last year but with natural smoke flavor. (Company press release, 3/28)
Chicken-fried ‘Lot 42’ cauliflower steak: Chef Danny Trace of Brennans’ in Houston, has concocted a new, hearty vegetarian item: Chicken-Fried Cauliflower Steak. Dubbed “Lot 42” after the section of Gundermann Farms where cauliflower grows, the thick-cut slab of cauliflower is first roasted with herbs like sage, thyme and oregano, then is dipped in a tempura batter and fried to create golden brown coating. Alongside is a potato salad made from Peruvian Purple Majesties potatoes and a vegan mushroom gravy finishes the dish. (Nation’s Restaurant News, 5/3)
Hominy is back on the menu: Thanks to the New Southern cuisine revival and interest in heirloom and authentic agricultural products, hominy is arising again. A centuries-old staple, the term hominy can refer to various forms of dried corn, cracked corn or corn treated with lye or lime. These forms can then be ground for grits or even masa, the base for tortillas and tamales. Consumers are enjoying these foods in fine dining restaurants such as Seersucker in Brooklyn that serves Shrimp & Grits. Heirloom bean grower Rancho Gordo from Napa, Calif., offers white corn posole in its bean and grain line-up. (Wall Street Journal, 5/3)
Taco Bell testing out “waffle taco”: Several Taco Bell units in Southern California are getting good response with a new breakfast waffle taco. The waffle is lightly fried, stuffed with scrambled egg and a sausage patty, then folded over and served with maple syrup, all for an incredible $.89. Other morning items include breakfast burritos and the A.M. Crunch Wrap as well as Mtn Dew A.M., a cup of the soda mixed with O.J. (NBC News, 5/ 14)
Egg McMuffin for dinner? Restaurant marketers wake up to $50B breakfast opportunity: McDonald’s is considering jumping on the all-day breakfast trend by serving its breakfast items all-day. Other chains are also focusing on expanding morning offerings. Denny’s and IHOP are working on smaller, fast-casual concepts. Fresh Express, from Denny’s, offers a portable Grand Slam breakfast sandwich. Pinkberry Yogurt has added Greek yogurt to a morning menu. (Ad Age, 5/13)
Outback to debut steak flights: With the popularity tasting flights at fine dining restaurants, casual-dining restaurant Outback Steakhouse is following suit. Outback has created a steak flight, though diners only get one kind of steak, filet or sirloin. The comparison experience comes from a series of different sauces, some that might be unfamiliar to guests. Sauce choices include Creamy Diablo, Brandy Peppercorn, Béarnaise and Wild Mushroom. Taking the concept one step further, the chain is also introducing cake pops (Cheesecake Melba, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Carrot Cake) and beer flights. (Nation’s Restaurant News, 5/17)
Wang Mandu: Following in the footsteps of the still-popular Chinese steamed bun, or bao, comes its Korean cousin, wang mandu. Spotted in two new locations in New York’s Koreatown, the fluffy steamed buns are typically stuffed full of ground pork, cellophane noodles and Korean-style vegetables, like kimchi, but can also sport sweet red bean paste. With Korean cuisine’s hot trend status, these could be the next iteration of this on-the-go staple. (Tasting Table NYC, 5/13)
Beloved, wholesome fruit is moving beyond its everyday snack and juice roles to inspire a host of new products that offer good health, flavor adventure or even an artisan experience. But beyond all the natural, nutritious and flavorful qualities of fruit, both its versatility and important cultural role make it a uniquely attractive vehicle for food and beverage advances on multiple fronts.
Our report features strategic insights to guide food industry players on tapping into trends to successfully innovate around fruit. For those taking an artisanal approach to fruit, explore seasonal and regional fruit varieties. Those addressing Latino or Asian audiences should not only leverage tropical fruits, but also remember that today's flavor lovers and adventurous eaters are also seeking out new fruit experiences. Likewise, tropical takes on fruit-based American classics can capture the imagination of multicultural consumers. And, of course, outstanding nutritional profiles seal the deal for consumers of all ages.